There’s an old Mark Twain saying, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in a dog, ” that rings true about the play of the 2006 Missouri Valley Conference champion Evansville Purple Aces in the NCAA regional championship series at Charlottesville VA this past weekend.
You can’t measure a baseball team’s heart by any magic statistic – you have to wait to see how they play the game.
The #3 seed Evansville Purple Aces didn’t give up against overwhelming odds.
Rained out Friday and losing to SEC champion #2 seed South Carolina in a tough fought first game Saturday morning 4-2, they faced what appeared to be a mission impossible.
They’d have to beat Lehigh in a second game Saturday, turn around to beat UVA, and South Carolina Sunday and then beat South Carolina again on Monday to win the Regional NCAA championship.
They’d have to win four straight games against Patriot, and super baseball power ACC, and SEC teams without a loss.
And this had to be done by a small 2,300 student body school nestled on a horseshoe bend in the Ohio River in Indiana across from Kentucky where the median income per household is $31,963 compared to a $41,091 national income.
Down 6-3, they waited until two outs and a 3-2 count on the batter in the 9th to fight back against Lehigh.
Junior SS Robbie Minor got the hit sign after 5 straight takes, and drove the ball far over the left center field fence for a walk off grand slammer and his first collegiate HR to beat the Mountain Hawks 10 – 6.
Next came ACC #1 seed host UVA Sunday throwing one of their ace lefthanders, Jacob Thompson (10-3 W-L, 2.20 ERA).
In the bottom of the first inning, DH Pat Tumilty kept UE momentum going with a 2-out 2 run homerun and the Purple Aces kept it going scoring 15 runs on 16 hits off VA highly acclaimed pitching staff to win 15-4.
1B Kasey Wahl chipped in 4 hits, including a homerun and two doubles, to drive in 5 rbi..
Sophomore OF, Jim Visconi went 3 for 4, scoring four times and driving in 2 rbi.
RHP Scott Souther was the winning pitcher mowing down the opposition for 7 innings allowing 7 hits, striking out 8 and walking 2.
Two freshmen hurlers, lefthander Jeremy Kuester and right hander J.R Carbonell turned in an inning of relief each.
The scene was set for an easy win by the South Carolina Gamecocks Sunday night
against a tired Purple Aces team playing their fourth game in two days.
DH Phil Disher didn’t make UE feel any more rested hitting a 3-run homerun to give Gamecocks a 3-0 lead in the top of the 3rd..
But in the bottom of the inning, SC defense made UE adrenalin flow again when it collapsed giving up 12 runs on only 5 UE hits, 3 errors, 6 BB, and a hit batter.
Going on to score 3 more runs, UE beat SC 15-5 with senior starter Mitch Prout (2-1) getting the win for 6.2 innings work.
After the game, UE Coach Dave Schrage described the importance of Monday’s game championship game against South Carolina, “Tomorrow’s game is a big game for our program, we have a chance tomorrow to really put our program on the map, and I’m sure that our team will be ready to go.”
Whatever happens Monday night against South Carolina, we know for sure that Evansville’s heart is bigger than the other teams at Charlottesville.
They may win the whole shooting match.
The winner of the Charlottesville regional Monday night goes on to a 3-game series in the super regional against the winner of the Florida State/Georgia game.